My NORLA summer reading wish list
Christine Foster Meloni
Browsing through the spring 2015 catalogue of NORLA (Norwegian Literature Abroad), I found many Norwegian books translated into English that I wanted to read. I narrowed my choices down to six and created a Summer Wish List for myself, which I would like to share with my NAW readers.
Only Human (Bare et menneske) by Kristine Næss
I was impressed with Karl Ove Knausgård’s praise of Næss: “Few writers other than Kristine Næss succeed in getting language so close to life itself; she is one of the very best of our generation.”
I also found the plot intriguing. A 12-year-old girl disappears and, when her backpack is discovered in Bea Britt’s garden, she becomes the primary suspect. Britt lives alone in her grandmother’s house and her grandmother’s story lives within her.
Næss has been nominated along with Jon Fosse for the Nordic Council’s Literary Award for 2015. The winner will be announced on October 27.
Seven Days in August (Sju dagar i august) by Brit Bildøen
The following comment about the author caught my attention: “Brit Bildøen is one of Norway’s most beloved and well acclaimed authors.” This author, I thought, is one I should become familiar with.
The summary of Seven Days in August sparked my interest. Sofie and Otto were greatly affected by the terrorist attack in Oslo and Utøya in 2011. They shared their grief for eight years but now their marriage seems to be cracking up. Can grief be shared only for a certain period of time? They realize that they must reevaluate their relationship before they can move forward.
Manual (Manuell) by Cathrine Knudsen
Critics considered Knudsen’s Manual one of the best literary works of 2014.
The protagonist of this novel is Cara Alona. Now a mother, she begins to reflect on family relationships and decides to write her life story. Her grandfather is her starting point. As a child she only saw him when her family drove through his toll booth where he manually operated the cash lane. No words were ever exchanged.
She struggles to answer fundamental questions such as What is belonging? and What is identity?
Dead Heat (Dødt løp) by Kurt Aust
I am hooked on Scandinavian crime novels and Kurt Aust’s bio interested me. He has won two prestigious literary awards: the Glass Key for best Scandinavian crime novel and the Riverton Prize for best Norwegian crime novel.
In Dead Heat, Norwegian Erik Norse is riding in the Tour de France, not as an ordinary cyclist but as a secret agent for Interpol. He is charged with identifying four riders involved in race fixing and gambling. Needless to say, his assignment is fraught with danger.
Knut Hamsun: Journey to Hitler (Knut Hamsun. Reisen til Hitler) by Tore Rem
When I saw the title, I immediately classified this non-fiction book as a “must-read.” Rem focuses on Knut Hamsun’s audience with Hitler on June 26, 1943. Hitler was aware of Hamsun’s fame as “the greatest living writer of the Germanic Peoples, a contemporary Goethe. He also knew of Hamsun’s support. The meeting began well but ended badly as Hamsun dared to talk back to Hitler.
In the epilogue of the book, Rem includes Hamsun’s obituary for Hitler.
Studies of Evil (Studier i ondskap) by Arne Johan Vetlesen
Vetlesen has been a professor of philosophy at the University of Oslo since 1998. In this book he considers the act of evil committed in Norway on July 22, 2011, and other historical examples of atrocities in order to answer difficult questions such as What is behind acts of evil? and Should we forgive cruel perpetrators?
NORLA—Norwegian Literature Abroad promotes the export of Norwegian literature. The organization disseminates knowledge about Norwegian books and authors abroad, and operations are financed by the Norwegian Ministry of Culture. For more info, visit norla.no/en/pages.
Christine Foster Meloni is professor emerita at The George Washington University. She has degrees in Italian literature, linguistics, and international education. She was born in Minneapolis and currently lives in Washington, DC. She values her Norwegian heritage.
This article originally appeared in the July 24, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.